Updated: Mar 28
How is COVID-19 affecting locals and tourist in Bali?
The date is March 21st of the year 2020 and we find ourselves in Bali. You must all know by now about the current health crisis and the social issues it carries with it.
We arrived at Denpasar international airport from New Zealand on March 7th and the whole Coronavirus issues hadn't escalated as much as it has today.
Back then, There were only four confirmed cases in Indonesia and zero cases in Bali. When we got down from the plane, we were received by someone in the airport handing out yellow papers which you had to fill in stating where you would be staying and if you felt sick or not. Not the greatest measure, I believe.
Today, there are ~450 cases in Indonesia and ~4 cases in Bali, none of which are local transmission cases. At least those are the official numbers from the government. So far there have been two deaths from COVID-19 on Bali.
(Post, T., 2020. COVID-19: As Jakarta Braces For Lockdown, Bali Reports Zero Local Transmissions. The Jakarta Post. 21 March 2020.)
So what is happening in Bali? Are people taking precautions? Is tourism decreasing?
Definitely yes to both. Tourism has drastically declined since February when the travel ban for Chinese nationals came into effect. Starting from there, Italians followed and then Iranians. Today the travel ban applies for people coming from Iran, Italy, Vatican, Spain, France, Germany, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and China.
On top of that, as of March 20th, there are no more visas on arrival, meaning you cannot fly to Indonesia without having previously applied for a visa at an Indonesian embassy with a health certificate proving you are not sick. And you can hear many of the locals talking about Indonesia closing their borders very soon.
Walking the streets of Ubud, you can see a tenth of the people you would normally see at any other time of the year, let alone in March when the Balinese celebrate their new year.
The streets are empty, the restaurants are lonely, the hotels are emptying their rooms every day with tourist fleeing back home and getting heaps of cancellations.
(Karp, C., 2020. Photos Of Bali Airport Reveal The Impact Coronavirus Has On Tourism. Mail Online. 12 March 2020).
I, as a tourist, have to admit I appreciate seeing Bali, for once, all for myself, without the crowds. But on the other hand, I see how hard the tourism industry is being hit. I have eaten in restaurants where I am the only client and there are twelve waiters, and I can't help but wonder how is the owner of the place affording to pay them all. The fact is very sad, a lot of people will soon start to lose their jobs.
Only last week I got news from two hotels (and I mean big resorts) that I was going to be working with, that they will be closing their doors until further notice because they have zero guests and zero bookings until May. They have probably fired their staff and now these families will have to search for an income elsewhere.
Still, the situation is very confusing for me. I feel really bad for all the people losing their jobs and the whole tourism industry being hit so hard, but I also see little or no health and safety guidelines. My partner and I are trying to stay in the hotel room as much as we can; we have limited our meals to only twice a day and we only go out for that purpose. But should we be doing more? I see how other countries such as Italy and Spain have had to opt for a complete lockdown due to the severity of the spread, and I wonder if we should be in lockdown in Bali too.
I truly hope not, because we have no kitchen and we rely on restaurants for our meals, as I am sure hundreds of other tourists all around the world do too.
The fact is the spread in Bali is null, or at least that's what the government is saying, but many do fear that they have been underreporting the numbers of cases to muffle the hit into their economy.
Needless to say, the precautions should be put in place by everyone everywhere in the world.
Wash your hands until you can't wash them anymore.
Carry antibacterial gel or wipes with you when you are on the street and clean your hands after touching money, handrails, other people, etc.
Practise social distancing as much as possible!
If you're feeling sick use a mask and avoid going out of home as much as possible.
Sneeze and cough covering your mouth with the inner part of your elbow.
Stay informed from official websites such as:
Your country's government official webpage.
During these times, stay home, stay safe and stay informed!